In mid-July, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) placed the last two transmission lines, both from Widows Creek Fossil Plant, back in service 74 days after sustaining unprecedented damage due to severe storms and tornadoes in April on its power transmission system. In addition to many TVA crews, a number of private electrical contractors, including Dillard Smith Construction Co. of Chattanooga, Tenn., participated in the restoration.
For more than 60 years, Dillard Smith has played a vital role in the electrical distribution, construction and maintenance industry in the southeast. The company evolved from a family-owned business that started with a used pickup truck during the early electrification of the Tennessee Valley into a progressive organization that owns and uses some of the most modern tools and equipment in the industry today.
The two-and-a-half-month effort to restore 108 transmission lines to service required 1.4 million pounds of steel and 275 miles of wire to replace the 353 transmission structures and transmission lines that were destroyed. The last two 500-kilovolt (kV) lines and three 161-kV lines in northern Alabama were all back in service in early July.
“TVA strives to be among the nation’s leaders in customer reliability,” said Rob Manning, TVA executive vice president for Power System Operations. “The crews have worked days, nights and weekends to put the transmission system back together in time for the hottest summer weather.”
“What they’ve accomplished is truly amazing,” Manning said. “Immediately following the tornadoes, we identified the lines that could be fixed quickly and restored power to customers using these lines. In a week’s time, 95 percent of the affected customer connection points were reconnected, yet only about a quarter of the structures were repaired. After a month, 102 lines were back in service.”
The TVA, a corporation owned by the U.S. government, provides electricity for 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states at prices below the national average. TVA, which receives no taxpayer money and makes no profit, also provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists utilities and state and local governments with economic development.